William Emmons

William Emmons spent much of his early life enslaved.  He also fought in the Civil War, which he describes below, including being threatened while on the way to enlist, getting injured in battle, and the celebrations that followed the announcement of victory.  He finishes by describing briefly the work he did after emancipation.

*Historically-used terms that are offensive, marginalizing and/or disparaging have been removed from the transcripts and replaced with [redacted].  See more information.

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I left and joined the army when I was 18. But forty of us from the plantation around near Carlisle went at the same time. When we went off for the army, going down a dusty road, three white fellers we knew came a riding up, and said, “Where are you [redacted] goin?”  We told them we were going to war and they tried to make us go back to the plantation. We told them we’d kill them sure if they kept on meddling with us, and they got scared and let us alone.    

In one the battles I got shot in the left hand, and I tied it up myself. The captain he noticed it one day, and he asked to see it. Then he sent me to the hospital. They thought they’d have to take my hand off, but I didn’t want them to that. So they kept me in the hospital for about thirty days and doctored it, and finally, I was back in the lines fighting.    

The day we were emancipated we were at Petersburg, Virginia, and I never heard as much shouting and hollering in my life. When the war was over, I went back to Emmonds plantation, and they asked me what I was going to do now that I was free. I told them I was going to work, but they told me no free [   ]could stay on the plantation.    

I went to Mason County and hired to a Major Read. He was an abolitionist and went about the country trying to get the plantation owners to hire the free slaves and help make good citizens of them. Major Read paid me $20.00 a month, and board and clothes. I was able to save a good little sum, and I left and went up to Ripley.    

Formerly enslaved person
Birth Year (Age)Interviewer
WPA Volunteer
Enslaver’s Name
William Emmons1845 (93)UnknownRoy EmmonsRiggs
Interview LocationResidence StateBirth Location
Springfield, OHOhioNicholas, KY
Themes & KeywordsAdditional Tags:
Civil War, EmancipationFirst person, Union soldiers